Overhaul of mental health system needed - Fox

By Talisa Kupenga

The numbers of people rejected from mental health services who then go on to die by commit suicide in NZ is unknown. Māori Party co-leader Marama Fox says cases like this are not uncommon here and an overhaul of the mental health system is needed to reduce suicide rates.

Fox says it "makes no sense" that the Ministry of Health does not collect data about the number of people rejected from mental health services who go on to commit suicide.

"This is a government who says that they will drive their policies from data. That the data and evidence will help them to determine where to put their money to target the groups of people who are at their most need. Well, they're missing whole groups of people here and we need to absolutely dig down deeper."

And she's not surprised by the lack of data.

"They collect the services that they deliver, that they offer. If you're turned away you don't even get into the service."

Earlier this year, four women at crisis point contacted Fox on the same night. All were rejected help at emergency departments and one had been trespassed for the third time.

Fox says, "How is it that someone in crisis who fears for their own safety, that cannot trust themselves through the night that they won't try something that they're fearful of doing, but that they feel compelled to do, how is it that they can present to ED and not be given help?”

Fox says departments have a mixed response to a crisis. Like in the case of Iriheke Pere, who nearly died when help was sought?

"You would know about Iriheke Pere whose mother was concerned for his own safety and rang the local hospital asking for the crisis team to respond to him and they sent instead the Armed Offenders Squad who shot him, while he was not struggling on the ground."

Despite already raising these issues with the Minister of Health, Fox says if the government is serious about this issue it would revisit the policy that turns people away to reduce suicide rates.